Top Dressing Fertilizer in Western Canada

Top Dressing Fertilizer in Western Canada

Top Dressing fertilizer in Western Canada

Western Canada has a short growing season which makes another pass for top dressing fertilizer sometimes difficult to achieve. Many crops have the fertilizer applied during the seeding season with Liquid Distribution Systems, (like these kits we make here). Often this will meet the crops fertilizer requirements for the whole season. Making one pass makes sense in a season that brings the right conditions. This saves an extra pass over the field and leaves the fertilizer where the plants need it.

But if the spring season is too wet or dry it might make sense to reduce your application of fertilizer at seeding, and move it to later in the season for more favourable conditions. To do this, it makes sense to use your sprayer and top dress the remaining fertilizer. This is a great risk management tool to see what crop and moisture conditions are like later in the season to determine if more nitrogen is going to pay out or not.

If the growing conditions improve in June after seeding and there is a good plant stand, you may see a yield benefit from applying more nitrogen. In dry conditions splitting your fertilizer application with half or two-thirds of the nitrogen requirements applied at seeding and the remaining nitrogen top dressed in June can be an effective practice.

With saturated soils, seed placement can be disrupted. Handling less fertilizer at seeding may increase acres seeded per day and eliminate costly compaction. Reducing your application rate may also reduce the amount of nutrient losses through leaching and denitrification. With reducing the fertilizer application, you will be able to assess the plant stand after germination and determine whether top dressing fertilizer will beneficial.

Top Dressing fertilizer for Canola

According to the Canola Council of Canada, the earlier the application the better. Top dressing before the four to six leaf stage of the crop is good practice. This is the pre-bolting stage just before buds form and the plant will elongate. The maximum rates of nitrogen uptake in canola is from about the five-leaf stage to full bloom. The fertilizer should be applied before this stage because rainfall is required to move the fertilizer to the root zone for plant uptake.

Link to referenced material from the Canola Council of Canada.

When top dressing liquid fertilizer it is good practice to apply when the leaves are moist from dew or a light rain. This will allow the fertilizer to run off quickly and reduce the amount of leaf burn.

Another thing to consider is that a nitrogen top up will extend canola’s vegetative period and delay maturity. Consider the calendar date and the risk of fall frost in addition to the yield benefits before making a nitrogen top up.

Top Dressing fertilizer for Cereals

The stage where top dressing fertilizer can vary depending on what your are trying to achieve with the application. When applying to cereals, applications made prior to the fifth leaf stage the nitrogen will contribute to the yield. If the fertilizer is top dressed after the fifth leaf you may see an increase in protein but not necessarily yield.

You may find more information here for top dressing in cereals.

What can I expect for increased yield?

Top dressing nitrogen can be an effective way to get the most out of your crop. Wheat needs two pounds of nitrogen per bushel produced and canola uses around three pounds of nitrogen per bushel produced. Keep this in consideration when deciding how much you should apply.

Application Tips

UAN top dressing can be applied by dribble banding with streaming nozzles (check out our selection!) or dribble banding tool bars. Flat fan nozzles can cause excessive leaf burn and are not recommended. With Streaming nozzles, apply at lower pressures (20 to 30 psi) this will eliminate the atomization of the fertilizer. Larger droplets will run off the leaf reducing the risk of burn. (You may see some leaf burn, but the plants will grow though it). Remember! Try and avoid the heat of the day as you will see more leaf burn in hotter conditions. We carry a full line of streaming nozzles for all your application rates!

What if I am at my sprayers capacity to cover acres?

Disease, weed and insect pressure determines what needs to be sprayed each season. This can cause you to have limited resources for an extra pass to top dress fertilizer. We have recently released the Connect Sniper, a 120-foot trailed applicator perfectly suited to top dress fertilizer or apply pesticides while the crop is at an early growth stage. The sniper comes with a 1,600 US gallon stainless steel product tank, stainless steel recirculating wet booms, Hawkeye 2 product controller, all on top of 800 metric tires for increased floatation! Find more information here!

It is always important to consult your agronomist for more information with crop management practices!

Contact us today to get more information on the full line of sprayer nozzles we carry in stock! We are proud to offer same day shipping.

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